This weekend, the Verizon IndyCar Series visits another natural terrain road course that is on my short list to visit. While the pull to visit the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course has never been quite as strong as it was to visit Road America; it is on my list nonetheless. I am assuming that the hotel situation is pretty much the same as it is for Road America. I hope so, because I would like to think that my camping days are way behind me.
Mid-Ohio is another of those facilities that reeks with tradition. While it is not as old as IMS or even Road America, there has been a lot of open-wheel history made at the 2.258 mile, thirteen-turn facility that opened in 1962.
Although I’ve never been there, I’m told that there is somewhat of a rustic charm to Mid-Ohio. There are none of the amenities found at some of today’s more modern facilities. Instead, word has it that it is like taking a step back into yesteryear. Those that know me will know how much that idea appeals to me.
Some of the biggest names in IndyCar history have won at Mid-Ohio. Names like Johnny Rutherford, Mario Andretti, Bobby Rahal, Emerson Fittipaldi, Michael Andretti, Al Unser, Jr., Alex Zanardi, Juan Montoya, Helio Castroneves and Paul Tracy are just some of the names that graced the top step of the podium after CART started racing there in 1980. After the Verizon IndyCar Series returned to the track in 2007, Scott Dixon has won five of the nine races held there since then – his most recent win coming in 2014.
It would be hard to top the feel-good story of last year’s race that featured Graham Rahal starting thirteenth and winning at the track that is definitely his home track. Rahal was born in nearby Columbus, Ohio and his father’s team is based in Hilliard, Ohio. Rahal’s father, Bobby Rahal won at Mid-Ohio in 1985 and 1986, before the younger Rahal was born (in 1989).
In the end, Rahal held off Justin Wilson, Simon Pagenaud and defending race winner Scott Dixon after a re-start with six laps remaining. Sadly, Mid-Ohio was the last race that Justin Wilson would complete. He would be fatally injured in the following race at Pocono, three weeks later.
Last year’s Honda 200 at Mid-Ohio completed a four-race stretch that saw Rahal finish first, third, fourth and first to get within a sniff of the championship lead. Unfortunately for him, he closed out the season with a twentieth-place finish at Pocono and an eighteenth-place finish at Sonomoa.
Things are not going as well this season for Rahal or many of the Honda teams for that matter. Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi is the highest Honda driver in the championship battle, in seventh place. James Hichcliffe is only one point behind in eighth. Carlos Muñoz is the next best Honda in tenth place and Rahal is one point behind Muñoz in eleventh.
As much as I’d like to see it, I just don’t see Rahal having the same success at Mid-Ohio as he did last season. It’s just been that kind of year for him. I think he may be the highest finishing Honda, but I don’t see Rahal finishing any higher that fifth.
I would like to go out on a limb and pick someone out of the blue, but I don’t see a wild-card winning either.
Sunday’s race will come down to Scott Dixon, who seems to have a lock on Mid-Ohio and will be trying to score one more win in Target colors before that sponsorship ends after twenty-seven years; and Will Power who is doing his best to come from behind and wrestle the championship away from his teammate Simon Pagenaud.
Dixon will finish second, but Power will win Sunday’s race. Quite honestly, I think Power has seemed hungrier than Pagenaud ever since May. Power is on a roll and I think it will continue. Will Power will win Sunday’s Honda 200 at Mid-Ohio and he will also win the 2016 championship. Now, let’s just watch it play out.